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‘Do it at home’: B.C. officials urge small gatherings on eve of Diwali

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WATCH: B.C. health officials report 617 new COVID-19 cases, more than 12,000 people in self-isolation – Nov 13, 2020

British Columbia officials are urging people to stay home and connect virtually, on the eve of one of the biggest events on the South Asian cultural calendar.

Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, falls on Saturday as the Lower Mainland grapples with record growth in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Read more: B.C. baby delivered by emergency C-section while mom in ICU with COVID-19

Typically, Diwali involves large group gatherings at home or in banquet halls, fireworks displays and visits to the temple or Gurdwara for worship and to light candles and lanterns.

But with a health order in place banning social gatherings in the Lower Mainland, officials are pleading with people to keep their connections virtual.

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“Fraser Health has the biggest proportion of South Asian population in the province, and we know that South Asian population is overrepresented in the COVID-19 pandemic in our region,” said Victoria Lee, president and CEO of Fraser Health.

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“With current public health measures in place we’re urging everyone in Fraser Health region to … ensure that you’re celebrating Diwali safely at home this year by sticking to your household.”

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Harry Bains, NDP MLA-elect for Surrey-Newton, urged people not to invite others to their homes, and to turn down any invitations they get to celebrations.

Read more: Lower Mainland grapples with tough new restrictions as COVID-19 cases climb

“Do it at home and do it within your bubble, which is your close family, the people you live with,” Bains said.

“You don’t want someone transmitting this very, very bad disease to others … you want to make sure your family, yourself are safe. These are your parents, your brothers and sisters, these are your children and your neighbours.”

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Vancouver’s Diwali Fest has already transitioned its events online, and has been streaming a variety of dance and cultural programming for free.

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Fraser Health is also urging people to take advantage of virtual prayer options, through online video with Gudwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib or the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Society or similar options.

People who do opt to go to the temple are being asked to keep their visit short and maintain physical distancing.

It’s asking people to stick to video chats or phone calls for social visits, and to avoid any kind of buffet-style food sharing.

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